+ Principles of the Orton-Gillingham Approach

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The principles of the Orton-Gillingham approach mean that each child receives instruction tailored to his or her specific needs.  Here they are:

  • Diagnostic and Prescriptive — The teacher always seeks to understand how an individual learns and to devise appropriate teaching strategies.  Each lesson is planned to a particular student.  Infinitely adaptable, Orton-Gillingham is a flexible approach rather than a “system.”
  • Direct and Explicit — The instructor presents the material in direct and explicit fashion.  A student is never expected to know anything that has not been taught and practiced. 
  • Language Based — The Orton-Gillingham approach is based on a technique of studying and teaching language; understanding the nature of human language; the mechanisms involved in learning; and the language learning process in individuals.
  • Multisensory — The Orton-Gillingham approach is multisensory.  Sessions are action-oriented: auditory, visual and kinesthetic elements reinforce each other for optimal learning.  Spelling is taught simultaneously with reading;  in this respect Orton-Gillingham differs from traditional phonics instruction.
  • Structured, Sequential, Cumulative — but Flexible — The elements of the language are introduced systematically.  Students begin by reading and writing sounds in isolation.  These are blended into syllables and words.  The various elements of  the language — consonants, vowels, digraphs, blends and diphthongs — are introduced in orderly fashion.  As students learn new material, they continue to review old material to the level of automaticity.  The teacher addresses vocabulary, sentence structure, composition, and reading comprehension in a similar structured, sequential, and cumulative manner.
  • CognitiveStudents learn about the history of the language and study the many generalizations and rules that govern its structure.  Again and again, they are encouraged to think rather than guess.
  • Emotionally Sound Because old material is constantly reviewed and new material is introduced systematically, the student experiences a high degree of success in every lesson and gains in confidence as well as in skill.  Thus, self-esteem develops directly from the student’s achievement and learning becomes a positive experience.

Obviously, Orton-Gillingham is not  a “cookbook” method.  It does not just fill in gaps.  Instruction is diagnostic at every lesson; the instructor checks for any snag or difficulty to evaluate the reason it is occurring.  In this way, elements of the next session can be prescribed on the basis of  that child’s need, to strengthen his understanding and reinforce it.  

source: the COLE training manual.  COLE (Consortium of  Literacy Educators) is one of several certified Orton-Gillingham curricula, all of which are stricly built on these principles.  For information about COLE, contact cole3@comcast.net

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